Mine Countermeasure Ship Piggybacks Way to Middle East

Story Number: NNS061211-10Release Date: 12/11/2006 11:12:00 AM
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By Ed Mickley, Naval Mine And Anti-Submarine Warfare Command Public Affairs

INGLESIDE, Texas (NNS) -- USS Gladiator (MCM 11) is getting a ride aboard the Condock V, a Heavy Lift Vessel contracted by Military Sealift Command (MSC), which departed Ingleside, Texas, Dec. 7 for a trip to the Middle East.

Gladiator will be replacing one of the Navy's soon-to-be decommissioned osprey class coastal mine hunters (MCM) USS Cardinal (MHC 60) and USS Raven (MCH 61).

The 1,300 ton, 224 foot Gladiator is one of two Avenger-class minesweepers transported to Bahrain. The second is scheduled to depart Ingleside by the end of the year. This is the third time mine countermeasure ships have been transported overseas to avoid wear and tear on the ships; the first was sent in 1996 and the second in 2000.

"We're using heavy lift to replace the two coastal mine hunters that will be decommissioned and sold to Egypt," said Lt. Cmdr. Charles Brown, a spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. "It reduces maintenance issues and the ships are operational upon arrival."

The unique 106 meter Condock V, one of several heavy lift ships owned by the Condock Befrachtungs-Gesellschaft mbH of Germany, submerges so that a transported ship can be 'floated' onboard. Once aboard and secured using keel supports, blocks and lines, the 4,700 ton capacity motor vessel then rises to the surface displacing the float-on water, a process known as ballasting.

The eight-hour operation entails many hours of preparation, operation meetings, safety checks and coordination between Condock V, Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command, Naval Station Ingleside (NSI) Port Operations, MCM Squadron 2, South Central Regional Maintenance Center, MSC and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) personnel. Several days and hundreds of people coordinate the arrival, positioning and the float-on of the vessel, welding necessary supports, and loading materials and supplies by crane. Inspections for each phase have to be done as well, ensuring safety for all personnel. Engaging the actual movement of the transported ship is the final step.

"We make sure that there are no loose ends," NSI Port Operations Head, Cmdr. Frank Bulges stated. "We plan for any and every contingency ensuring a safe evolution."

The day of the load, engineers from MSC, NAVSEA and Condock V oversaw the efforts of line handlers and pusher boats that guided Gladiator from the pier into Condock V's open-air cargo hold. Once Gladiator was in place, Navy divers verified that the keel was centered upon specially constructed supports, then Condock V ballasted up to its normal draft. Following the load, additional supports were welded in place to secure Gladiator for the ocean voyage.

"We'll go into the well deck and place all of the necessary support structure," James Ruth, NAVSEA's heavy lift expert said. "Insuring that the ship is secured for any sea state they might encounter."

The voyage typically takes 40-50 days and can encounter a myriad of weather conditions.

A six-member team from Gladiator's crew leader is assembled to accompany the ship on its voyage. They'll stay aboard Gladiator but will work with Condock V's crew while in transit ensuring a secure passage for the ship.

"We have a top notch team that will make sure everything is ready upon its arrival overseas," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Hutchens, commanding officer of Gladiator. "They'll keep an eye on things until we get there."

After Gladiator's journey, the rest of crew leader will re-join the ship to float it off in a reverse process of the float-on and be ready for operations.

For related news, visit the Commander, Mine Warfare Command Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cmwc/.

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